I didn’t go to the opening of Art is My Weapon (Part 2) last night with the intention of writing about it but I saw two works that struck me so much I just have to talk about them. The show is a collective of artists creating pieces on gun violence. There were works made out of guns, artistic representations of guns, a welcome to America sign created from shot gun shells and statistics on gun violence. Something for everyone.
I was drawn to Tha Boys by Rikki V. Heck and then I had the good fortune to meet the artist. I was drawn to the work because it reminded me of a mural I saw in Belfast 10 years ago. (I will include a super shaky video I took below.) It was of a masked gunman; as you walked by the work, the gun followed you. Now that I see the video again I see the similarities in the work but realize that I remembered the mural differently; I remembered more of what Rikki had in her work.
There is a brutal vulnerability to her work. The terror and tears in the eye. The swirl of smoking gun. The real gold chain (not painted) around the neck. It’s someone dressing up for a part that they may not want. Rikki said she did the piece for her brothers. They are young black men who may also be put into a position to play a part that they do not want to play. But as she says, what do you do when you can’t get a job because of the way you look – yet you still want to eat? People get pushed into roles.
It’s a wake up call to those of us who push people into those roles. There is something scary in the human condition where we lose sight of the role that the “dominant culture” plays in forcing a role onto others and the ramifications of those actions. I wish this picture could be placed as prominently as the Belfast mural to remind us all of the roles we play and how those roles are chosen.
Just around the corner from her work was Untitled (An Elegy to Sandy Hook) by John Ilg. There are 26 delicate white butterflies representing the 20 students and 6 teachers that were killed in the Elementary School in Connecticut. They are so beautiful, so fragile, so ethereal. There’s always something wrong about beautiful butterflies suspended and dead. It makes me uneasy because they should be fluttering – much like the 26 people in Sandy Hook should be doing what they did before the shooting.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet this artist but Rikki was able to answer a few questions for me. Apparently, the artist ordered them online. “Like some people order guns online?” I asked. That was apparently part of the point. And she told me that Ilg learned that you can’t order a gun replica in Minnesota but you can order a real gun. (I did a little searching to verify this info – seems like replicas are OK with they are antique but modern replicas are not OK.)
The work as it stands is beautiful; the story behind it makes it even more meaningful.
These were two pieces that struck me last night. There’s a gallery full of others that might easily strike me another night and the show is open.